Athletes put their bodies on the line to meet the demands of competitive sports. Constant rigorous training often leads to body pain and soreness due to overexertion, development of injury, or natural degeneration. Many professional athletes can’t afford to wait for the natural healing process of the body, so they seek out faster solutions so they’ll be able to continue performing at their best.
But first, what are traditional treatments for pain and soreness? The most widely used cures among athletes and trainers are thermotherapy, proper stretching, and rest.
Thermotherapy is the application of heat or cold to treat soft tissue injuries. Heat applied through pads, bottles, gels, or creams help dilate blood vessels and ease stiff muscles. Ice, on the other hand, helps manage swelling and provide temporary pain relief.
Stretching aids blood flow to tissues so it’ll accelerate the recovery of sore muscles. Adequate stretching before and after training also helps the body become stronger and more flexible. This prevents injuries from occurring in the first place.
Proper rest allows the body to take a break and recover from the constant strain. Most athletic trainers and physical therapists still regard it as the simplest yet best method to alleviate pain.
These practices are traditionally safe and convenient but could take a long time to take effect. Moreover, their effectiveness may not be satisfactory to athletes who suffer from severe or chronic sports-related pain. For everyone looking for quicker and more effective solutions, here are some alternatives to try:
1. Natural Supplements
When common painkillers and topical creams no longer do the work, natural supplements are the popular go-to option. Adding them to your regimen may help alleviate or ease your discomfort, especially when you combine them with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and the daily practice of relaxation techniques.
A natural approach to pain relief that’s steadily gaining popularity is cannabidiol (CBD) intake. CBD is a compound that comes from marijuana plants. It’s sometimes touted as a pain medication alternative in treating common conditions, like back pain and arthritis. It’s thought that by reducing inflammation, cannabidiol might help ease chronic pain to some extent. CBD is also believed to promote sounder sleep, thus, treating sleep disruption that people with chronic pain commonly experience.
CBD is best taken in capsule or pill form for slow extended release or as an oil for faster effect onset. But the question if CBD really works is a concern many people have. Fortunately, some helpful websites, like hempforfuture.com, discuss cannabidiol’s analgesic effect mechanisms, studies/researches around it, and its proper use for pain management.
Acupuncture is an ancient practice that originated in China and has been used for around 2,500 years to treat different conditions and pains. It involves the insertion of hair-thin needles into specific points on the body. This process triggers the brain to release endorphins, which are natural chemicals that manage pain and stress.
One popular form of acupuncture is cupping, which involves lighting a flammable liquid inside a glass. When the flame goes out, the cup is placed on top of the body and creates a vacuum-like effect. The sucking effect aids blood circulation and lessens inflammation in muscle tissues.
Medical studies have proven the effectivity of acupuncture in quelling body pain. In fact, many Western cultures have adapted it for pain management. It’s commonly used to treat chronic pain in the back, neck, and knees. It has also been said to help relieve migraines and cramps.
Another good thing about acupuncture is that it’s considered non-invasive and has no known negative effects.
3. Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care is a form of physical therapy that aims to correct the physical structure of the body to relieve pain and encourage self-healing. It involves applying quick but strong pressure on a joint between the vertebrae in the spinal column. It mostly focuses on spinal manipulation since most pains and nerve problems are caused by misalignment of the spine.
This treatment mostly benefits those who suffer from lower back pain and swollen joints. It also helps eliminate headaches caused by misplaced pressure or constriction in the spinal column.
Apart from spinal adjustment, chiropractic care also employs posture exercises and ergonomic training. Having good posture and knowing the right way to walk, sit, and stand limits strain on the body. It not only relieves pain but also prevents the body from developing more problems.
Cryotherapy is an advanced form of cold thermotherapy. Instead of applying ice packs to sore areas, the entire body is subjected to extremely low temperatures–ranging from -200℉ to -300℉–usually by submerging in a cold chamber for two to four minutes.
While it just sounds like a bigger-scale version of cold compression, the actual process of whole-body cryotherapy is actually quite complicated. When body temperature suddenly drops, the brain alerts the body of possible hypothermia and redirects blood to the core to regulate body temperature. Blood vessels quickly eliminate toxins and inflammatory properties in the blood, which results in faster production and distribution of endorphins.
The near-freezing temperature also causes the immune system to become overly reactive. It increases antioxidant levels to induce tissue repair and improve the body’s self-healing ability. Once the session is over and the body temperature starts to rise again, highly-oxygenated blood flows back and supplies oxygen and nutrients to tissues.
5. Stem Cell Therapy
Most pain treatments provide short-term relief and the pain eventually comes back. Stem cell therapy offers longer-lasting pain management by zeroing in on the actual source of pain.
There are cases wherein pain is a byproduct of an existing condition, such as tendonitis, arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and connective tissue damage. Stem cell therapy cures the condition and gets rid of the pain that comes with it.
This process involves harvesting stem cells from the bone marrow and redirecting them where healing is needed. Stem cells are potent cells that can transform into whatever cells the body needs to form or regenerate life. It’s most commonly used to reduce inflammation in the knees, back, hips, and elbows.
Other examples of regenerative medicine include immunomodulation therapy and tissue engineering.
Alternative pain management solutions come with different pros, cons, conditions, and risks. Although they’ve been studied and tested, effectivity can’t be absolutely guaranteed for everyone. It requires careful consideration to figure out what’ll work best for specific body types, conditions, and severity of pain. Seeking expert opinion from healthcare providers, doctors, and therapists is always the right way to go.